Hey pre-K and kindergarten teachers: Looking for a blockbuster way to encourage your students to help others? The St. Jude Trike-A-Thon is an amazing service learning program for young children that teaches trike, bike, and riding toy safety while helping the children of St. Jude.
North Dakota kindergarten teacher Kayla Dornfeld coordinated her first Trike-A-Thon last year for one important reason. “I believe it’s never too early to start teaching empathy, and hosting a Trike-A-Thon is one of the best ways I can do that. It gives my students a first person look at kids who are fighting cancer and going to school at the same time. It teaches them to care about other people, even if they’ve never met them.”
When you host a St. Jude Trike-A-Thon, you’re doing more than just creating a fantastically fun event for your students: You’re also raising money for one of the top cancer-care centers in the country. Dornfeld’s event was a huge victory. “I was absolutely shocked at how successful our Trike-A-Thon turned out to be,” confesses Dornfeld. “Over 60 kids participated and we raised over $4,000. (Our original goal was $500!).”
To help you get started with your own Trike-A-Thon, here are seven tips to make the event easy for you, fun for your students, and life-changing for the kids who benefit from the care they get at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
1. Choose your location and design your course.
You’d be amazed by all of the different locations schools have found to hold their Trike-A-Thons. Some schools set up the course right on their school playground or blocked off the parking lot. Other schools have transformed their entire gymnasium into ‘Trike Towns.’
Use kid-sized traffic cones or sidewalk chalk to mark your course. Make it as simple or elaborate as you wish, depending on how many helpers you have. The location doesn’t matter as much as the event. Just get your kids and their trikes (or bikes) to your chosen location and turn them loose. As long as they’ve got space to pedal their little hearts out, they’ll be happy as can be.
2. Use your resources.
Once you sign up to become a Trike-A-Thon coordinator, St. Jude will provide everything you need to have a great event. “Our Trike-A-Thon was super easy to coordinate,” says Dornfeld. “All the resources I needed were right there. You can print them out or access them online. It made it super easy to plan.”
3. Create your very own Trike Town.
Round up some large cardboard boxes and craft supplies, and let your students get busy creating buildings for their very own Trike Town. Route your racecourse through the town and design a number of fun stops for your students.
When Dornfeld held her Trike-A-Thon last year, their Trike Town included a snack station for water breaks and healthy snacks run by PTO parents, a “Chalk and Talk” stop where kids could chat with friends and color with sidewalk chalk, and the SRO station (see #5 below). The stations were fun for the kids and gave them opportunities to take a break, which helped ease the trike traffic.
4. Teach bike safety basics.
When you coordinate a St. Jude Trike-A-Thon, you not only help raise funds for a good cause, you provide students with valuable bike safety education. The free curriculum includes a digital coloring book, storybook, and videos featuring Bikewell Bear and Pedals the Bunny. Bikewell and Pedals introduce the purpose of the Trike-A-Thon and teach important bike safety tips. “The characters are super relatable for my students,” says Dornfeld. “They love watching the videos and the coloring pages and activities that come with it.”
5. Invite your community—neighbors, business people, firefighters, police, and more.
Who better to invite to a bike safety event than your local police department? They know bike safety better than just about anyone, and most are happy for the opportunity to connect with their community in a positive way. Some schools have even invited the mayor or other local government officials to their events. A simple tricycle event has the potential to become a bigger lesson about community government.
Teacher Kayla Dornfeld brought in their school’s School Resource Officer to talk about bike and helmet safety. “My students see him every day at school,” she says, “but it was really special for them to see him on a Saturday at a special event. He gave out prizes and let the kids check out his squad car. It was a powerful part of the experience.”
6. Get families involved.
Invite your students’ families to get involved. Send home emails and newsletters announcing the event well in advance. Encourage families to talk up the event at home with their kids. “The key to success,” says Dornfeld, “is communicate often. Let families know how they can help and why it’s important.”
St. Jude’s online system makes communicating easy. It allows families to sign up to collect donations. Families can share their child’s page on social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), or they can send emails asking for sponsorship.
7. Decorate your tricycles!
Send home ideas for trike decorating. And if you want to take it a step further, send home an actual trike-decorating kit. Pack a ziplock bag full of streamers, ribbons, balloons, and construction paper to make signs. (Include a smaller baggie of glitter for the sign if you’re feeling really brave!) Label the take-home bags with these free printable labels. If you want to handwrite the names, use this one: Trike-Decorating-Kit. If you want to customize the names on your computer, use this one: Trike-Decorating-Kit-editable.
Harness your students’ built-in energy and excitement around bike riding, and your school will be all set for an absolute blockbuster Trike-A-Thon. More importantly, they’ll be learning about what it means to do good things for other kids in the community around them.